When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, MBA programs faced an unexpected crisis: many of the international candidates they had admitted would be unable to travel to campus. With the prospect of roughly one-third of their classes suddenly “missing,” a number of schools extended their application seasons and waived testing requirements, in hopes that they could quickly attract enough new applicants to fill the classes that started last fall.
And it worked! The classes did indeed fill quickly. Ever since, the admissions committees at some programs, such as MIT Sloan and Michigan Ross, have continued to waive testing requirements, while others, such as UVA Darden, have expanded testing options and introduced waiver applications.
Meanwhile, another group of schools—consisting of NYU Stern and Northwestern Kellogg—has allowed candidates to apply for waivers if their circumstances have affected their ability to take the GMAT or GRE exam.
So, what does this mean for you? Maybe you are feeling tempted to toss your GMAT prep books aside and just start applying. Not so fast! Here are five reasons you might need (or even want!) to take the test:
Your target MBA programs still require it
The most obvious reason is that, at least for now, most of the top MBA programs still require test scores. Yes, we have noted some exceptions, but if you know you want to apply broadly, or perhaps just keep your options open as you advance through the application process, you should plan on taking an exam. Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and UPenn Wharton, just to name three, continue to stipulate that applicants must submit test results—no waivers!
If you are hoping to avoid taking a test altogether, your options at the moment are quite few.
You need to prove your quantitative abilities
If you are planning to apply to an MBA program that does not require the GMAT, taking the exam could actually still benefit you.
How so? Before they can accept you, business school admissions committees need to be certain that you can manage their program’s highly analytical curriculum. This means that if you are a liberal arts major and don’t have a single quantitative class on your academic transcript, you might need test scores instead to prove your abilities. (Typically, a 46 Quant score on the GMAT is sufficient to indicate that you have the necessary quantitative strength.)
You need to offset poor grades
Maybe you did take quant classes in college, but you didn’t do very well in them. Your B- and C grades in these courses will not persuade the admissions committees that you can manage the school’s rigorous academic course load. By performing well on a standardized test, you can demonstrate that you’ll be able to perform in your target MBA classroom, too.
You are really good at standardized tests
Perhaps you don’t need to submit test scores for your target programs, but if you tend to do well on standardized tests and expect to score above a school’s average, taking the exam could give you a bit of an advantage.
Business schools still love to tout their GMAT average, and this number is also factored into many of the MBA rankings, so the admissions officers are interested in keeping their program’s average high. If your score can help them do so, you might just increase your chances of gaining admission.
Your MBA program might change its mind
As noted, a few of the leading business schools are offering some flexibility, but times change. No one can predict whether these programs will maintain these looser policies after the coronavirus has ceased to be a hindrance, so you need to plan ahead.
The last thing you want to do is count on a program waiving its testing requirements, only to learn that in the coming year, it will once again demand that applicants submit test scores. Until the issue is truly resolved, you should err on the side of caution and make test prep part of your pre-MBA plan.